alien species

‘The Terrans’ was so much better

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V’Dan, by Jean Johnson
Publication: Ace, December 29, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Source: Free from publisher

The view was nice, but the food was bad
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After I fell in love with The Terrans (see exactly how much in my review), I expected to adore V’Dan. Unfortunately, everything I ignored in The Terrans was emphasized in its sequel, and everything I loved so much took a back seat to the main elements (those things  I ignored).

V’Dan continues the story of the interaction between two human civilizations: the Terrans, or the futuristic us, and the V’Dan, a civilization that grew up in a distant universe after they left Earth millennia ago in a time of disaster. This time, the group of mixed V’Dan and Terrans, the individuals who made first contact, have traveled from the Terran homeworld to the V’Dan homeworld, where they embark on diplomatic, political, and interpersonal ventures.

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The Terrans: Super Space Opera and First Contact

the terransThe Terrans by Jean Johnson
Penguin/Berkley/Signet: July 28th, 2015 (Science Fiction / Space Opera)*

Outstanding Adventure!
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Two hundred or so years in the future, the peoples of Earth have colonized the Moon and a few other planets in the solar system. Faster-than-light travel (in this universe, called Other-Than-Light, or OTL) has been around for approximately a decade. After yet another major conflict with massive loss of life, the nations united to become one Earth government, with a governmental structure much more focused on ethics and honesty than on … corruption, greed, etc.

In addition to this utopian civilization, some people have developed telekinesis, telepathy, and clairvoyance. The emphasis on ethical behavior for these people is much stronger than for others, although it is mandatory for all civil servants.

Within this environment, Jacaranda has been a high-ranking civil servant for years. With a military background, and psi abilities that surpass the vast majority of mentally gifted folks, she is in a unique position to become Ambassador to other races from other solar systems. In fact, she has been chosen by the government based on her presence in a number of prophetic visions, as have the other members of the First Contact team. Some clairvoyants have seen human-like aliens, some spider-influenced, and some even more horrific (sorry, spider people) aliens. All coming into contact at roughly this time, with the selected First Contact team playing the leading roles.

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Resistance is Futile Lacks Depth, Has Unique Heroine

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Resistance is Futile by Jenny T. Colgan

Orbit: May 28th, 2015 (Romantic Science Fiction)*

vintagesuitcase3vintagesuitcase3 The view was nice, but the food was bad (meh)

This book’s premise intrigued me. I don’t often come across books whose protagonists are female redheaded genius mathematicians.

The set-up involves a mysterious, too-good-to-be-true fellowship position. When Connie finally arrives at her new office, however, she discovers that she is not the only bright mathematician to get the job. Which is shrouded in secrecy. As she and her coworkers work to solve the problem they’ve been given, they also poke their noses into the mystery about what problem itself. What are these numbers they’ve been given, and what do they mean? What could be so important and so desperately secret at the same time? (more…)

Magic and Mayhem in Disenchanted & Co. Part 2, ‘His Lordship Possessed’

hislordshippossessedHis Lordship Possessed by Lynn Viehl
Pocket Star, October 14th, 2013 (Urban fantasy / Alternate history)

My rating: Vacation at a beach I’d go to again (equal to 3.5 stars)

This part of the Disenchanted & Co. series begins right where the first installment leaves off. The author wastes no time getting right to the action, thankfully. Charm (the heroine) is held captive by Dredmore (the villanous-seeming hero). She calls her ghost grandfather Houdini to help her escape by possessing one of her guards. She escapes, and begins again her quest to sort out the mystery of the magical conspiracy introduced in Her Ladyship’s Curse.

Charm has a very wry, witty way of looking at the world that I love. She’s still plucky, capable of protecting herself, and determined to be independent. Her wit and wry humor come through especially well in a scene where she gets dressed in a whore’s costume at her friend’s brothel.

The plot has a lot going on. And I do mean a lot. Dredmore and Charm’s grandfather Harry are keeping something big from Charm, something crucial to the plot resolution. Dredmore gets into trouble; it’s revealed that the conspiracy involves an ancient magical race and an ancient war; the mystery of Her Ladyship’s Curse is discovered to be especially complicated; Charm treks through the sewers underneath the city Rumsen; there’s betrayal; the relationship between Charm and Dredmore develops in a very decided (and exciting) way; she discovers a secret about her pendant; and there’s even more I don’t want to give away.

All this action makes for a roller-coaster ride of a short novel. At times I felt there was almost too much going on, and that it all happened in a fortnight was kind of unconvincing. At times I found it difficult to figure out what was going on, since it had been so long since I read the first installment. In fact, I would have enjoyed these two books much more had they been kept in a single volume. On the other hand, all that action, the romance, and the myriad sub-plots made this a very absorbing page-turner.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I would recommend the series for fans of steampunk and urban fantasy. Fans of Lynn Viehl will enjoy it, and fans of S.L. Viehl may also enjoy it, although it is quite different from her space opera/science fiction series Stardoc.

Read-alikes

If you liked the determined, independent Charm with her unusual and mysterious nature, who solves mysteries and stops conspiracies, you might also like this novel about a young soulless (and therefore unique) woman in London who solves a supernatural conspriacy:
Soulless (Parasol Protectorate #1)

If you really enjoyed the romance in His Lordship Possessed, you will probably also enjoy this sexy story about a bionic Duke and a Detective Inspector in an alternate 19th century England:
The Iron Duke (Iron Seas #1)

For another book that combines a magical alternate world with a story about an antagonistic but attracted hero and heroine, try this series about a magical young woman who is forced to work with an aristocratic Fae to save the Edge:
On the Edge (The Edge #1)

If you want to read about more independent, sharp-witted heroines who solve others’ magical problems, and an urban fantasy that is set in an alternate North America, check out:
Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1)

I find myself short of recommendations of similar stories that take place in an alternate, historical North America. Do you have any? I’d love to hear about them!

A Reader’s Map for Science Fiction Romance Reads

For a fun twist on read-alikes, I have created an interactive Spicy Node that will allow you to navigate around a web (remember the brainstorming webs you drew in primary school? It’s kind of like that) to find books that are related to one another by various features. The node centers on a book I reviewed earlier, The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord. Every book in the web has something in common with that book.

To view the Node, click on the image below.

spicynodesciencefictionromance

Navigate by clicking on the bubbles, and scroll down for synopses. Drag the background to move the bubbles around.

Enjoy!

Book Review: The Best of All Possible Worlds

best of all possible worlds The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord
Publisher: Del Rey
Date: February 12, 2013
Genre: Science Fiction / Romance
Rating: Outstanding Adventure

I did not imagine that The Best of All Possible Worlds would be one I couldn’t put down, but it was practically glued to my fingers for as long as it took me to finish it.

The story opens with the cataclysmic destruction of an alien planet, and is moved by the people’s search for a future and for the preservation/survival of their race and culture.

A group of Sadiri settlers (all male) arrive on Cygnus Beta, a planet made up of a hodgepodge of different humanoid species, a true mixing bowl. Sadiri are infamous for their sense of superiority (they have mastered using a greater percentage of their brains than any other species), and the potential for serious clashes between the two cultures arises. The mission of the Sadiri men is to find compatible females – namely, taSadiri – who are genetically linked to the Sadiri, with which to mate/marry/rebuild.

Dllenahkh is a Sadiri councillor who leads the search. He is partnered with a low-level government biotechnician named Grace Delarua, who narrates most of the story. They, along with a small team of experts, travel the world for a year to locate and present their plans for intercultural blending to various groups of taSadiri who have settled on Cygnus Beta in the past.

Dllenahkh is reserved, controlled, and intellectual, while Delarua is bubbly, funny, and energetic. I found her outlook on life incredibly captivating and often hilarious. In fact, I think one of the things that drew me in most was Delarua’s personality and narrative style.

One of the things the author does extraordinarily well is apply extremely diverse prose styles to Delarua’s and Dllenahkh’s narration. Each character is given a distinct, vivid voice, which is aptly portrayed in tone, pacing, and vocabulary.

I loved the slow build of the romance between the two main characters. Wow. It is so subtle and complete, and I loved that the courtship so exactly matched their personalities. As they navigate their cultural and personality differences, it becomes a true, affectionate and respectful, strong bonding based on understanding and consent.

But that’s not all! Two other things I want to highlight: The Universe, and the Anthropological approach.

Some may not appreciate the slow-moving, relatively uneventful plot. I was so engaged in the story and the characters and the cultures, I didn’t even notice. I loved discovering each colony that the main characters visited, and their different cultures and ways of living. None are perfect, some are strange, and some are bigoted. Each has a different social norm. The novel raises questions of boundaries, cultural incompatibilities, different moral compasses, and outside influence. When is it okay to intervene?

The Universe. Wow. I won’t go into detail, because it’s one of those things a reader should discover for him- or herself. It’s integral to the way the story just unfolded like an origami figure. However. I will say that I believe the novel may not actually be set in the future, time travel and space travel notwithstanding. For Earth is embargoed, and at one point the situation is explained to Delarua in such a way that it seems as though Terrans are not ready for interspecies interaction. Fascinating! I have so many questions about this, I would like to see them answered in another novel set in the same universe.

This book is about differences. It’s about survival. And it’s about the harmony that can result from a mix of peoples, cultures, and personalities. Of course, it’s also about travel (time, space, and planetary), adventure, and love.

Highly, highly recommended.

Read-alikes:

For a different approach to cultural and biological clashes, negotiations, and relationships, I would recommend C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series. Intense, thrilling, and laden with danger, a human negotiator manages interspecies relations with a culture based on assassination and retribution.

Foreigner

For a lighter take on interstellar cultural interactions (and manners!), definitely try Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden novels, beginning with The Dragon Variation. This series is also great for Austen lovers.

The Dragon Variation